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Message on May 1:

FA Relief Fund wordmarkThe Importance of Financial Aid at SMUS

Our Financial Aid Relief Fund appeal launched today to every member of the extended SMUS family around the globe. Current parents and guardians, past parents, alumni, grandparents, and staff and faculty (current and former) have all received an appeal message that highlights the importance of our financial aid program at the school. During the extraordinary times of this pandemic our Board of Governors has flagged the increased support required for financial aid to families who need it now more than ever. The Board and our Head of School have made it a priority for us to do all that we can to keep our student body whole, and we have confidence that this message will resonate with the broad SMUS community.

We share with you three perspectives on the importance of financial aid at SMUS.

Mark Turner, Head of School:

“There is no doubt that education has the power to transform lives. Every great civilization has understood that communal progress begins with individual learning. The newly elected Tony Blair, a transformational Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1997 and 2008, when asked of his three main priorities famously said, ‘education, education, education.’ Since my arrival at SMUS in 2018, and after a period of ‘looking, listening, learning,’ I have been powerfully persuaded by the generosity of some of our key donors to invest in cultivating the leaders of the future. Countless SMUS students who have benefited from financial aid are now leaders within their communities and professions – transforming them with courage and conviction, the legacy of their time as students at SMUS.

In this time of rapid change and massive challenge, I would urge anyone with the capability to give, to reach out to our Advancement Team to invest in hope, potential and aspiration for the future. As it says in the Book of Proverbs: education and wisdom are more precious than gold. An education is a gift that goes on giving for a lifetime and beyond.”

Tim McGee, QC, Chair of the SMUS Board of Governors:

“One of the most impressive hallmarks of our school is its remarkable sense of community. This quote accompanying the recent launch of our new 10-year strategic plan, Floreat, says it best.

With students from more than 30 countries, dedicated staff and faculty, a supportive network of parents, and more than 8,000 alumni and friends around the world, we will continue to be a place that brings people together.

Bringing people together is what the school's financial aid program is all about. This has been critically important to the success of our school for many years. Why is that? Because we know that students who are able to learn from each other, care for each other and support each other as part of a vibrant and diverse student community will learn to appreciate the importance of the school's values of respect, courage, honesty and service; and they will harness these to meet the challenges and to seize the opportunities of life after SMUS. Building and maintaining vibrant and diverse SMUS student communities over the years for the benefit of all students has been greatly assisted by the availability of financial aid.

On behalf of the Board of Governors, I encourage you to please consider a gift to support financial aid. The reason is simple. Building thriving SMUS student communities, in all the ways available to us, is now more important than ever. Your contribution will do just that."

Lastly, the impact of your gifts to financial aid are authentically summed up by this current Grade 11 student:

“Receiving financial aid has opened many doors in my life that may not have been possible otherwise. Looking back at my two years so far at SMUS, I think about how grateful I am to have been granted these opportunities that have changed me, allowed me to grow, and to continue to reach new goals. Being awarded financial aid has been a blessing on my family and me, and it pushes me every day knowing that I was given something special!”

We hope and believe that this appeal for support will unite our SMUS community, ensure all students are able to remain at SMUS and that the diversity of our student body is retained. Our students are our future, and some of them need your help now. If you have not yet done so, please consider making your gift in support of the Financial Aid Relief Fund today. Your gifts will be matched through an extraordinarily generous gift from the SMUS Parents’ Auxiliary, up to $100,000 during the month of May.

Thank you!

Adrienne Davidson
Director of Advancement & Campaigns
President, American Friends of SMUS Foundation.
[email protected]

Please visit the Financial Aid Relief Fund webpage to download our Frequently Asked Questions document about financial aid at SMUS.

Donate Now

Sent to the SMUS community on April 16:

Greetings to all members of the extended SMUS alumni family – not only our graduated alumni, but our alumni parents and our former staff and faculty. The special community that is SMUS is richer because of you and we greatly value the many ways in which you have impacted the school of today. As such, I am writing to keep you informed of how St. Michaels University School is responding to COVID-19 constraints. There is much good news to rejoice in, despite the challenges we are all facing. Our recent messages on the subject can be found on our dedicated webpages.

This week our Head of School Mark Turner recorded an inspiring video message to the students and parents from an empty Chapel on what was the students’ first day ‘back’ at school. The significance of the location was deliberate: “the Chapel is a symbol of our community, and in fact was built by our community.” It is a message that alludes to our storied history and the challenges the school has faced over more than a century, and points out the need to hold on to our community spirit, for “it is that which defines us.” I urge you to take a few moments and watch the full video.

It is also with great pleasure that we let you know some of the good news that is coming from SMUS in these challenging times. We believe that our students and families will rise to the challenges we are facing and find the opportunities inherent in having ultimately overcome them.

  • The school, as you likely already know, was closed early for Spring Break on March 13 and in the weeks since then a very dedicated and talented faculty and staff have put their collective shoulders to the wheel, and have developed an extraordinary program to delivery online learning (our Remote Learning Plan – Community Guide is available online) in a very short timeline. I have learned from the School Directors that those online group classes have had an almost perfect attendance, and they included many forms of activities: from group lectures and quiet group study classes, to one class loosening up their minds through a collective jumping jack session! Some of our youngest Junior School students have already demonstrated fluency with Google Meet, knowing how and when to ‘put up a hand’ online to ask questions. And imagine the challenge that a comprehensive schedule of classes being delivered in a Pacific time zone poses to our international students in often very far-flung places and time zones. But our students are resilient, and they are up for the challenge!
  • A few weeks ago, I wrote about a local Victoria community initiative designed to provide urgent access to emergency funds, necessitated by the COVID-19 situation. This was a joint initiative by a SMUS alumni family (led by Robert Jawl ’00), the Victoria Foundation and the Times Colonist. Their initial goal just weeks ago was to raise $1,000,000 for those in urgent and great need in our broader Island community. They are now on the way to $5,000,000 and this community spirit has been supported by many within our school. A new, and highly relevant initiative for SMUS is being spearheaded by Karen Jawl ’99 (current parent and sister to Robert). Karen and their family foundation are partnering with School District 61 in Greater Victoria to ensure that the normal meal program for students at risk remains available while these children are not able to be in school. We will be providing more on this extraordinarily important program – please check our social media and our website in the near future to learn more, and in the meantime you can see the impact of the Rapid Relief Fund online.
  • And in a Hollywood example of support for those in need on Vancouver Island, look no further than David Foster’s star-studded lineup of performers who will perform a virtual concert on Friday, April 17 at 8 pm PDT on CHEK TV called Rock for Relief. It will feature many famous names, as well as an appearance by SMUS’s own Steve Nash ’92! Tune in to watch it from the comfort of your living room. More information is on the CHEK TV website.
  • SMUS was in the news again with two alumni, Jasper Johnston ’16 and Aysha Emmerson ’18, who have launched a support project aimed at connecting university student-tutors with K-12 students trying to learn at home. Read more on the Times Colonist website.
  • Matt Ashton ’13 from the Alumni Association Board and Denise Rees from our Alumni Office have been working for some months on launching a new mentorship program to connect and mentor alumni. We are in countdown mode on this program, which we anticipate will be of great interest to young alumni and our newest grads as they contemplate career prospects that will inevitably be impacted by COVID-19. Please check our alumni network platform SMUS Connect for more information in the coming weeks. If you are an alumnus and are not registered, please join the more than 1,000 members of your network who are already there. Recently launched there also is the Alumni Business Directory, a free service for our alumni who wish to profile their businesses to the broader alumni community.
  • Last but not least, in an incredible display of generosity from across the seas, one of our current parents in Asia recently offered to send a gift to Victoria healthcare workers. Please read that story on the SMUSpaper – it is a wonderful example of SMUS strong and connected, and SMUS giving back.

While many of these examples are related to the times we are living through because of COVID-19, what they all demonstrate is how we are drawing strength from our shared alumni community, and how we live our values by finding ways to overcome adversity and to give back to those who may need help. If you are among those who need a little help, please reach out to us by replying to this email, and we will try to find ways to assist you. Stay safe and stay connected.

Adrienne Davidson
Director of Advancement & Campaigns
[email protected]

Sent to the SMUS community on March 27:

To the valued member of our global SMUS community,

COVID-19 is impacting every place in the world in which SMUS alumni and their families are living and working. To all of you, and to our current families, we at SMUS want to say that we are thinking of you, aware of the immensity of what may be confronting you on a daily basis, and hoping that we may help connect you through this shared community that is SMUS. We are here for you. Please connect to us by visiting the SMUS website to see how we are working to support students during this time and read our latest story about how faculty are preparing for online learning. For alumni, SMUS Connect, our online networking platform, is the place to check in on your fellow alumni. We will continue to update these sites regularly.

Standing Together

The latest message from Head of School Mark Turner refers to the current need to "stand apart while still standing together." This is a perfect analogy for this message about the strength of our broad SMUS community of parents (past and present), guardians, alumni, staff and faculty (past and present), and of course our students.

In the Advancement team at SMUS, we work primarily in the philanthropic arena, building loyal relationships in support of the school, and helping to build a community that is connected and compassionate to each other. But at this devastating time for the world, it is extremely disturbing to see how the charitable sectors as a whole are being negatively impacted, and may well be prevented from delivering on their important missions in support of local and global communities (see what Imagine Canada has just announced on the topic in this country).

A Supportive Community

While there may well be challenges that SMUS must face as a result of COVID-19, there are more urgent issues to be addressed today. This school is a significant part of the local Victoria landscape, and as such I would like to flag a local initiative that is already addressing some dire needs in the Greater Victoria area. We are asking that you continue to act with generosity and compassion by supporting the Rapid Relief Fund initiated to quickly disburse funds to registered charities across this region.

This campaign is especially relevant for SMUS as it has been initiated and led in part by SMUS alumnus Robert Jawl ’00 and his family. The campaign began with a goal of raising $1,000,000 for five pre-selected charities deemed urgently in need; this goal was remarkably achieved in 72 hours. Their goal now is to raise another million for another five charities with similarly urgent needs, and there is a matching gift component this weekend to help reach the $2,000,000 mark. When we reached out to Robert and the other community leaders who are spearheading this extraordinary initiative, he said this:

“A significant number of those that we have collaborated with in mobilizing relief efforts are fellow SMUS alumni and among these folks, an overriding observation has held true: the lessons imparted of compassion, humanity, service, and work ethic many years ago, clearly have not been forgotten.”

On A Brighter Note

It is a challenging and draining time for many, if not most of us. We would, however, like to share with you some good news from SMUS to hopefully brighten your day:

  • We are very pleased to report positive progress in the health of the single confirmed case of a student with COVID-19 at SMUS; the student has almost fully recovered and is in good spirits.
  • In all three school divisions, faculty-wide meetings and small groups collaborating online have been taking place at an intensive pace. All teams have reported strong teamwork and a sense of pulling together in support of the students and their families. Students will look forward to some unique, fun and creative solutions for remote learning from our faculty in the weeks ahead!
  • A donation from within our community has allowed us to ensure that Junior School faculty and students have the technology they need for our remote learning plan. Thank you!
  • THREE babies have safely entered the SMUS world this past week. Rob Wilson, a well-known, long-serving former headmaster, has welcomed great-grandson Blake, grandson to Matthew ’83; Hailey Cooke from the Advancement Office gave birth to daughter Sloane on March 24; and Lindsay Primrose, wife of Ritch Primrose, Assistant Director of Senior School, safely delivered Liam on March 19. The Admissions Office has been notified!

Please Keep in Touch

Please stay connected to us and let us know if we can assist you in any way; send us news of how things are in your communities around the world and what you are doing to keep your spirits up and remain healthy. We are checking in with our older alumni locally to see if we can be of service to them, and would encourage our alumni communities globally to reach out to a SMUS family near you – even if it is just to say hello via a video chat or an email to send a virtual Vivat wave.

Thank you!

Adrienne Davidson
Director of Advancement & Campaigns